By Chana Rubin, RD
You already know that eating plenty of vegetables, whole grains and fish is good for your health. But did you know how much these foods can actually help lower your risk of heart disease?
1. One serving a day of leafy green vegetables is associated with a 23% reduction in cardiovascular events.
2. Eat at least 2 to 3 servings of whole grains every day and your risk of having a heart attack may be decreased by 21%.
3. Two servings of fish each week is associated with a 27% reduction in risk of a fatal heart attack.
Eat all these and you may lower your risk of heart disease by over 20%. That equals or exceeds the results of some medications! (If you're already on cholesterol-lowering medication, don't stop taking them without consulting your physician.)
It's easy enough to eat leafy greens – 1 cup of salad greens (dark green lettuce please, not iceberg) is one serving. Then there's spinach, chard, kale, and a variety of Asian-style greens (like Napa cabbage and bok choy) that can be stir fried or used in soups, omelets and casseroles.
Kasha, bulgur, farro, barley, brown rice, quinoa and millet are just some of the whole grains to try. One way to cook them easily is to add them to a pot of boiling water – just like you'd cook pasta. When they're done to your liking, drain in a strainer. Whole grains work as a side dish and as part of a main course. Start your day with half a cup of cooked whole oats and you've already eaten one serving of whole grains!
If you enjoy fish, eating two servings a week shouldn't be difficult. But with warnings about mercury, farm-raised fish and endangered species, it's often hard to know (or to find) the healthiest fish choices. And if you just don't like fish, what are you supposed to do?
For cardiovascular health, fish oil is often recommended, especially if you don't eat fish regularly. Fish oil contains EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which have been found to lower triglycerides and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke in people with known heart disease. It may also lower blood pressure and slow the buildup of atherosclerotic plaque.
Dosage varies, depending on your age and state of health, so talk to your health care professional before starting to take fish oil capsules. If you've tried fish oil and stopped because it caused you to burp, store the capsules in the freezer and swallow them while they're still frozen.
Chana Rubin, RD
Chana is a registered dietitian. She studied at Oregon State University and Oregon Health and Science University and has taught nutrition and healthy cooking in the US and in Israel. Her book, Food for the Soul – Traditional Jewish Wisdom for Healthy Eating, has been endorsed by Harvard School of Health Professor Meir Stampfer and James Beard Award-Winning cookbook author Gil Marks. Chana has three sons and two granddaughters and lives with her husband in Beer Sheva, Israel. Visit her site www.healthyjewisheating.com
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